Man touching ear in response to crackling noises in his ear.

Do you ever hear noises that seem to come out of nowhere, such as crackling, buzzing or thumping? It’s possible, if you have hearing aids, they need a fitting or need adjustment. But it may also be possible that, if you don’t have hearing aids, the sounds may be coming from inside your ears. There’s no need to panic. Even though we mostly think of our ears with respect to what we see on the outside, there’s a great deal more than what you see. Here are some of the more common sounds you may hear in your ears, and what they may indicate is going on. You should talk with a hearing specialist if any of these are impeding your quality of life or are painful and chronic, even though the majority are brief and harmless.

Popping or Crackling

When there’s a pressure change in your ears, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you might hear popping or crackling sounds. These sounds are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. When the mucus-lined passageway opens allowing fluid and air to flow, these crackling sounds are produced. It’s an automatic process, but on occasion, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can actually get gummed up. In extreme cases, where decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t help, a blockage might call for surgical intervention. You probably should see a hearing professional if you have pressure or chronic pain.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

Once more, if you use hearing aids, you may hear these types of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly within your ears, the volume is too loud, or you have low batteries. If you’re not using hearing aids, earwax may be the problem. It seems logical that excessive wax might make it difficult to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how could it make a sound? If wax is touching your eardrum, it can restrict the eardrum’s ability to function, that’s what causes the buzzing or ringing. Thankfully, it’s easily fixed: You can get the excess wax removed professionally. (Don’t try to do this yourself!) Tinnitus is the name for persistent buzzing or ringing. There are a number of types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus is a symptom of some sort of health problem and is not itself a disorder or disease. While it might be as simple as wax buildup, tinnitus is also associated with afflictions such as depression and anxiety. Tinnitus can be eased by treating the underlying health problem; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is a lot less common. Do you know that rumbling you can sometimes hear when you take a really big yawn? It’s the sound of tiny muscles in your ears which contract in order to offer damage control for sounds you make: They lessen the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! Activities, such as yawning and chewing, are so near to your ears that though they are not very loud, they can still harming your hearing. (And since you can’t stop chewing or speaking, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) These muscles can be controlled by some people, though it’s very unusual, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble at will.

Thumping or Pulsing

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re most likely right. The ears have a few of the bodies largest veins running very close them, and if your heart rate’s up, whether it’s from that important job interview or a tough workout, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and when you go to see a hearing expert, unlike other types of tinnitus, they will be capable of hearing it too. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but you haven’t worked out recently, you need to see a professional because that’s not normal. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; there are most likely health concerns if it persists. Because your heart rate should come back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate goes back to normal.